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What Would You Like the Future of Work to Be?

Posted May 14, 2020 • Change,Conflict Mastery,Leadership,Mindfulness • by Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler, Ph.D.

Source: Deniz Altindas for Unsplash

Yesterday, I had the honor of being interviewed by Kate Davis, Deputy Editor of Fast Company magazine, for her podcast, Secrets of the Most Productive People (our episode is scheduled to air next week). We discussed how working parents can stay productive while working from home and caring for children during quarantine. At the end of the interview, Kate paused, looking at me through the Zoom screen, and asked, “What do you think the future of work will bring? What will work be like, post-pandemic?”

I’ll tell you how I answered her question, below. But first I want to tell you that I’m writing about this now so we can all consider this important question while we still have a chance to do something about it.

This week, when many people across the US, and the globe, are considering when and how to open up and venture out again, the question of what life will be like post-pandemic, or even just during-pandemic-but-possibly-no-longer-in-full-quarantine-mode, seems to be making its way to the top of our minds.

I answered Kate by asking, and then answering, a slightly different question.

Here’s the crux of what I said:

There’s the question of how I think things will go. And then there’s the question of how I want them to go.

Here’s how I’d like the future of work to look:

My hope is that those of us who are lucky enough to still be safely hunkered down at home will take this still-quiet time to ask ourselves what our deepest values are, and how we would like those values to guide our work and our lives post-pandemic.

My hope is that we’ll individually and collectively take the time to identify our ideal, guiding values in life. Maybe your values are family, courage, and spirituality. Or leadership, repairing the world, and financial stability. Or healthy living, love, and adventure. The process of identifying your values doesn’t need to be overly complicated or even take more than a few minutes. You can choose one guiding value, or two or three, or a handful or more. (To get you going, you can use this free values inventory as a guide to spark your thinking.)

My hope is that once we identify our values, we’ll keep those values front and center in our lives. When we have to make tough decisions, we’ll use our values as a guide. When we have to decide how many hours to stay at work or at what point it feels safe for us to venture outside our homes, we’ll use our values as a guide. When we have to choose how to treat the people who work or live with us, we’ll use our values as a guide.

And my hope is that when it is time to go back out into the world, we’ll do our best, each day, to align our actions with our values.

Now, this may seem like a hard way to live, constantly checking to see whether our behavior is in alignment with our values. It may seem like we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment or frustration when we inevitably don’t measure up to the standards we’ve set for ourselves. It may even seem like if we try to live like this, we won’t be able to provide for our fundamental needs.

But consider the opposite: When we aren’t guided by an internally-chosen, intentional set of values, we inevitably end up following whichever ones other people (parents, teachers, friends, colleagues, managers, TV, movies, magazines, etc.) put in front of us.

Sometimes their values help us create lives full of meaning and accomplishment. Other times, however, the values we pick up from other people don’t help us live in meaningful, productive ways at all. Sometimes, trying to live by the values that society has deemed worthy leads to exhaustion, burnout, or worse.

When faced with that alternative, living according to a guiding light that we set for ourselves intentionally may be easier and smarter than it looks.

Questions to guide us from here:

  1. How would you like the world of work to look, post-pandemic?
  2. What is one thing in your control, that you can do today, to live in a way that honors your deepest values?
  3. What is one thing you can do, starting today, to help those around you (whether you manage or parent people formally, or not), to live in a way that honors their own deepest values?

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